Dawn of the Arcana vol. 1 & 2 – Rei Toma

Dawn of the Arcana, translated from Reimei no Arukana, runs in Shogakukan’s Cheese! monthly publication. A romantic fantasy by Rei Toma, Dawn of the Arcana is a promising new series from Viz that is sure to hook a broad audience with it’s political intrigue, prophetic plot elements, and complex love story.

The Gist: Senan Princess Nakaba is obligated to marry Prince Caesar of Belquat in order to form a peace treaty between the two warring countries.  Trapped in a hostile environment with only her loyal servant Loki as an ally, Nakaba must fend off her possessive husband, guard against the political plots of her new homeland, and uncover the mystery of her awaking powers as a seer. When Caesar decides he’s fallen for his resilient and tenacious wife, Nakaba becomes torn between her budding attraction to Caesar and her loyal love for steadfast Loki.

Loki and Caesar

Loki and Caesar

The Characters/Romance: Here is another shoujo series that has a an admirable heroine at the center of the plot. Nakaba has lived a very reserved life, with little exposure to the outside world. Despite this, she is able to face her enemies in their own country with bravery and determination. She stands up for her cultural heritage when the others belittle her for it.  She takes responsibility for Loki’s dangerous behavior, and stands up to Caesar’s petty attempts to degrade her or possess her. All the while, Nakaba is facing the awakening of a very powerful “sight”, that at times leaves her vulnerable. This all makes for a very likable main character that readers can empathize with as well as cheer on.

Caesar of Belquat and Loki are the two love interests in this series. Loki is an Ajin, a demi-human, part man part beast, that has amazing strength and enhanced senses. He has been an attendant for Nakaba since she was a child. After caring for her for so long, he now loves her and wants to protect her from her enemies in Belquat. Nakaba seeks solace from Loki and has strong feelings towards him since he has always been there beside her.

Caesar’s arrogance starts readers off with a poor impression, but as the privileged prince learns more about his bride, his attitude shifts towards wanting to protect her from his family and make her happy. This change from Caesar makes Nakaba reconsider him as an ally behind enemy lines. Her interest in him becomes more tangible when the prince tempts her with passionate kisses. Caesar shows himself to be a more profound character when he angrily admits that he doesn’t want the throne or any of the power his position affords him. That his family has never provided him the support or faith that Nakaba genuinely offers.

Toma plays on the contrasts of humble servant versus dominant possessor with these two characters. At times girls want to be treated both ways, so it will be interesting to see which guy will become the fan favorite.

Action panels of Nakaba fighting off Caesar

Action panels of Nakaba fighting off Caesar

The Art: Rei Toma has some of the best looking panels I’ve seen for shoujo fantasy. The paneling is clean and crisp, with very little “fluffy” toning. Character designs are attractive with much detail paid to facial expression and clothing. The backgrounds aren’t sparse either. There are many settings inside the castle and on the castle grounds that require rather detailed drawing. Of all the elements in her art I like Toma’s style of lighting best. She has a good grasp of mood and shadows. It stands out in the scenes that are more emotional.

The Audience: Viz has rated Dawn of the Arcana T for Teen. I would agree that this series would be more appropriate for older teens due to violence and some intimate kissing.

The Media: Dawn of the Arcana has been released in 9 tankobans in Japan. Currently we have two here in North America published by Viz, with volume 3 due out this week.

Heart of Manga Rating: ♥♥♥♥ Highly Recommend

If you haven’t picked up this series yet, it’s time you do. Dawn of the Arcana promises a good read for shoujo and fantasy fans alike.

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Super mom and teacher until the kids go to bed, then romance manga addict and writer until the caffeine wears out! Specializes in the shoujo and josei genre of manga and anime.
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